by Cynthia Tintorri
September 03, 2013
Picture this: You find yourself standing in a kitchen, on a stage, with a sea of people -- some of them judges -- seated before you, watching your every move. Before you is placed a basket you've never seen before, filled with top sirloin roast, cured pork loin, redskin potatoes, portabella mushrooms, coconut milk, water chestnuts, peanuts in the shell, and, just for fun, a whole octopus. A timer set for 45 minutes begins to count down. Quick! What's for dinner?
Is this a nightmare? For most of us, maybe. But for Susan Roth, chef/instructor in the culinary arts program at Northampton Community College, it's just another day at the cutting board. The five-time winner of the Iron Chef competition at the Great Allentown Fair scored her sixth consecutive win on Saturday, August 31, using that mystery basket of ingredients.
Roth, affectionately known to colleagues and students as "Chef Sue," wielded her knife beside fellow competitor Ricky Heinrichs, executive chef at the Spinnerstown Hotel. For the first time in the event's history, both chefs worked side-by-side at the same time, instead of one after the other.
Chef Sue's judge-pleasing entries consisted of an appetizer and entrée. The appetizer was pork roulades stuffed with cilantro, orange peppers and Thai seasoning, floating in a broth of coconut milk, water chestnuts, ginger, scallions and heirloom tomato, topped with candied peanuts.
The entrée she fashioned was "a play on surf and turf," Roth says. It featured a julienned beef, redskin potato and scallion stir fry, accompanied by an octopus, rice, spinach and feta-stuffed, grilled portabella mushroom, with fresh dill.
"The most challenging ingredient for both of us was the octopus," Roth admits. "It takes a lot of time to make it tender -- it's not like calamari! It was about two feet long, and neither Ricky nor I had ever worked with it before.
"Ricky was a great competitor. It was fun being on the stage together with the other chef, which I've waited to do for five years. It made it all the more interesting for the crowd and for us," Roth says.
If you'd like a chance to become a fan of this six-time Iron Chef winner's cuisine, you're in luck -- Roth and her husband, Matt (also a chef) will be opening a new restaurant sometime near the end of this year. Roth sold her previous restaurant and catering business, Susan's, in 2004. Since then, "Matt and I have been asked over and over again to open another place."
Mitzi's Table, as the new venture will be called, is named in honor of the late mother from whom Matt Roth acquired his love of cooking. The menu will feature regional and ethnic comfort food -- "with a twist!" -- for breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. Mitzi's Table will be located on Linden Street in Bethlehem, in the strip mall next to Josh Early Candies.
So will Chef Sue try for "lucky 7" in next year's Iron Chef competition? She says yes, just because it was so much fun to finally compete side-by-side with the other chef. And if she happens to win that seventh competition, she will retire to the judge's table, and give someone else a shot at the title. Challengers, start sharpening your knives!
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